Self Reflection with the help of Podcasts

I listened to three podcast episodes recently that I thought were really good at sparking a line of thought for self reflection and/or improvement.  Two of them were from the same podcast, the third was a different one.  

Overthinking It – Episode 531 – You Are Not Worse Than You Are and Episode 532 – The Dragon Bookmark. 

Normally Overthinking it spends time picking apart popular culture, but for the weeks of September 3rd and 10th they didn’t deem popular culture worthy of being picked apart.  Episode 531 was all about self improvement, and the ideas inherent to those words themselves and other ways people go about trying to improve themselves.  532 was something else entirely – it was about the experience of being alone with your thoughts (to put it briefly).  

I really wish I wrote down what prompted me to start this post at the time that the thoughts came, but suffice it to say that I was very much engrossed in these episodes and figure that other people can get something out of them as well.  Even if you’re not focused on self improvement at the moment, it doesn’t hurt to engage in some self reflection.

The Hilarious World of Depression – Imposter Syndrome: True Tales, Tricks, and Tactics for When You’re Feeling Fraudulent.  I get this a lot – I feel like my efforts aren’t good enough at all when it comes to making things.  And it doesn’t even have to be in the creative realm – that was a revelation I heard while listening to this podcast.  Often times I believe myself to be less than what I am in other people’s presence.  

I remember being busy cooking while I was listening to this episode, so I might need to listen to it again when I’m less focused on another task.  But sometimes it is helpful just to hear that other people struggle in the same way that you do, so that’s the primary use behind this episode for me.

Bonus Podcast: I forgot about this one when I started working on this post.  Raise the Bar – Season 2 Episode 2 – One Kwe.  This was basically a long interview with the owner of One Kwe, Kathryn Corbiere.  She’s in the process of opening her own storefront soon on Manitoulin, and has had her work featured in many different places (most prominently, Manitoulin Brewing Company).  It was very refreshing & inspiring to hear her story.

Some Observations of My Organizational Habits

Last week there was a bit of a kerfuffle on the /r/bujo subreddit – basically that subreddit was created to embrace minimalism in bullet journalling, to counter-act the extremely popular “artsy” entries that people are sharing these days.  The issue was that the art crowd was filtering into /r/bujo (probably because they picked the wrong subreddit) and the spirit of minimalism was dying; so the minimalists fought back and are in the process of reclaiming the subreddit.  

Did you follow all of that?  Good.  Where I connect to this is that I tend to be minimalist; I don’t sketch or doodle or use stickers (I used to use multiple pen colours, but I don’t like carting around multiple pens), I stick to the basics.  

I keep a separate book for personal stuff as well as at work.  What I’m noticing in my habits lately is interesting, though!  I use my work planner daily – it basically is a very large, multi-functional to-do list with pages for notes from meetings.  I use it in combination with digital tools (Outlook, OneNote, basically all of Microsoft Office).  It works for me and is helpful for tracking my progress.  

For my personal stuff, I sometimes go days without opening up the book (I haven’t looked at it today, actually).  I’m feeling more and more inclined to stick with my digital tools for my personal life and ditch the bullet journal aspect.  I don’t get quite the same satisfaction of using it as I used to.  Conversely I am finding more uses from my existing digital tools.

For example, I have both Samsung Notes & Microsoft’s OneNote at my fingertips – my smart phone has both of these within a few taps if I need to write anything down.  I put nearly everything in Google Calendar.  I’ve started playing around with Microsoft’s To-Do app as well.  This works for me.   

I went into this post thinking that the end result I’d come out with is that I’m going to just keep my notebooks for work and go 100% digital for my home life.  But I wonder now if taking the time to sit down and plan out my day holds a benefit that I’m forgetting about.  Is it a way for me to slow down?  

Maybe.  I think there’s also nothing wrong with sitting down and planning things out digitally.  When it comes down to it, I’ve been avoiding the “sitting down” part of the equation entirely.  I think this is something I need to explore a little bit more again.  There’s nothing stopping me from reviewing things electronically and keeping my life…well, digital.  

Perhaps my habits will change, but this is what I’ve picked up on so far.  They’ve changed since I got back into notebooks on a daily basis three years ago, so there’s no reason they can’t continue to evolve.

What’s your choice?  Digital or Analogue?  Or both?

Health Notes + Quick Dailyio Review

I’ve not seen very much progress in the weight loss department over the last 90 days.  My numbers have pretty much fluctuated up and down, meaning I’m more or less maintaining my weight rather than losing.  That’s fine, it’s definitely better than gaining.  

I know the reason for this too – I’ve not been properly tracking my calorie intake via MyFitnessPal.  It’s been a combination of a number of things – either I skip days entirely, or I only enter a portion of my diary, or I don’t record “treats” – the bottom line is that I’m not keeping track of what I’m eating, so I’m not holding myself accountable to the weight loss.  

In looking at my numbers, I think part of the reason for this is because I set my daily food goal too low.  It looks like I based it on losing 2 pounds a week – which is pretty aggressive, but it meant that daily I was only allowed 1690 calories.  That’s really low.  I asked some questions yesterday about what I was doing, and the person responding felt my calorie deficit was really high.  That’s when I looked at my numbers and agreed with them.  Helps to get outside perspective every now and then.  So I’ve done a reset, based my numbers on my TDEE – 500 per day (so the goal is: 1 lb per week).  

We’ll see how this goes.  I’ve also decided not to focus too much on the exercise front; I will be going to the gym, going for walks, playing some sports, etc.  But I feel that I’m putting too much emphasis on getting my daily steps in and I’m not getting as much reading done as I’d like to.  

Edit: My overall goal too is to help me feel more comfortable with the clothes I’ve bought.  I liked them in the store, but when I go to put them on at home for work, I don’t like the way they look.  So there’s a confidence thing going on too.

Daylio

I’ve recently started using the Daylio app.  I’m…not at all sure how they came up with that name, but it serves a specific purpose that I was looking for.  Namely, to track how I’m feeling.  Mostly I wanted to do this for days when I feel “down”, to try and figure out the reason behind feeling that way.  

I wanted something simple, quick, and give me the option to look back on it later to track trends.  I stumbled upon Daylio quite by accident, because I was originally thinking of tracking this kind of thing in my bullet journal.  I saw someone recommend Daylio and it turned out to be exactly what I needed.  

I stuck with the free version for a while, but they ended up having a 50% off sale – so I jumped on it and bought the paid version of the app.  To be honest, I think most people will be fine with the free version – I probably would still be using it for free had there not been a flash sale.  

But the app is pretty basic.  You open it up, add an entry (which is done by clicking on an overall mood and associating with an activity), and that’s it.  You can type notes if you want to, but it’s completely optional.  The simplicity of the app is what makes it great.  I believe the paid version opens it up to add more “moods”.

Overall it’s only something I recommend if you need a quick tracking app.  It’s not an in-depth thing that has a lot of utility.  I would say that if you need help with mental health in a serious capacity, this is not a solution.

Notebook Habit

I’ve got what I consider to be a “weird” hobby (or habit?) – writing in notebooks.  I consider it weird, because I have no practical use for notebooks – other than my “bullet journal” set up, I don’t really write down anything of substance day-to-day.  And yet, it’s an extremely enjoyable thing to see my personal font jump out just right from the page.

Excerpt from a notebook
Excerpt from a notebook

OK, the picture I just included is a little on the messy side.  But what I hope it illustrates is just the right balance of colour and shape of the letters that seems to look…”right” on the page.  This is the part where I consider my hobby / habit weird.  I don’t spend as much time writing things out as I used to, but finding the perfect paper and perfect pen (or sometimes pencil) for that paper is fantastic.

Every now and then (and now is one of those times) I go on a little quest to figure out, “what can I use my varied selection of notebooks for?”  The question is often unanswered, because either I give up or the feeling just fades away before I get a chance.  Predominantly I use it for planning my day or writing things down I don’t want to forget.  But that is purely functional – I actually want to write something out rather than use a planner.

So my search has started.  At the absolute least I will probably start writing out my blog posts by hand before typing them out here.  Ultimately, I would very much like to use up the notebooks that I’ve spent good money on 😉

Data Dump

Back in March, I got a Samsung Gear S3 smart watch to replace my FitBit Charge 2.  I’ve been doing a lot more tracking, etc. with it than I ever did with my FitBit.  But until now, I haven’t really looked at the data.  Well, now’s my chance.  Here’s all of the health data I’ve recorded.

Sleep

My data actually goes back to January – I assume that some data got imported when I did some syncs with different apps.  Here are my average sleep times for each month:

  • January – 7 hrs 26 mins
  • February – 7 hrs 47 mins
  • March – 7 hrs 56 mins
  • April – 7 hrs 0 mins
  • May (to date) – 7 hrs 2 mins

My average sleep efficiency recorded for April/May was 90%.  I’m not actually quite sure what “sleep efficiency” is, and whether or not that was a metric that Samsung came up with.  It turns out, it’s an actual number you can figure out yourself.  Here’s how verywellhealth.com defines it:

Sleep efficiency is the ratio of the total time spent asleep (total sleep time) in a night compared to the total amount of time spent in bed. For example, if a man spends 8 hours in bed on a given night, but only actually sleeps for four of those hours, his sleep efficiency for that evening would be 50% (four divided by eight multiplied by 100 percent).

So it looks like I’ve been sleeping pretty well, on average.

Steps

  • March – 8112 average daily steps; average distance 6.07km
  • April – 8247 average daily steps; average distance 5.63km
  • May (to date) – 8813 average daily steps; average distance 5.92km

I seem to be fairly consistent with the average daily steps.  My goal is 10,200 currently, and I’ve hit that 18 times (according to my ‘badge’ list – the last time I hit it was this past Monday).  The most steps I’ve walked to date was March 14th, when I hit 16,838 steps.  The previous record before that was 13,392.

Exercise

  • March – 99 average active minutes
  • April – 103 average active minutes
  • May (to date) – 115 average active minutes

You can tell that I’ve been more active as the weather gets better.

Heart Rate

  • March – 46 bpm Minimum | 68 bpm Average | 200 bpm Maximum
  • April – 45 bpm Minimum | 67 bpm Average | 171 bpm Maximum
  • May (to date) – 49 bpm Minimum | 69 bpm Average | 177 bpm Maximum

I’m not sure how to analyze this data, to be honest.  Is that good?  Bad?  Looking at the average, specifically; I figure that the minimums/maximums will probably be outliers anyway (and the max would be recorded during exercise).

I did some brief research, and found a formula for figuring out targets for training at least.   Using that formula, my max heart rate should be 186-188.  So it looks like except for March, I’m well within that range and have some room to work harder.  I found a Livestrong article that suggests 60 to 100 bpm is “normal” for ages 10 and up.

So there you have it.  I’m interested to see how my numbers compare for June/July/August.  I anticipate that my steps / exercise will probably increase vs the comparable numbers for March/April/May.  I think that it would be realistic to shoot for a 65 bpm average as well.

Timing

Recently I posted about some goals I had and one of them was to fix my swing for softball. I think in my head I had some ideas about changing my mechanics and maybe swinging up at the ball, or something like that. In my head I was going to hit home runs, probably.

I didn’t put any thought or practice to this other than just going up to the plate and start swinging.  I went to one practice a couple of Fridays ago, and that’s where I started to work on it.  My first step to everything was to just ease into swinging – I haven’t swung a bat all Fall/Winter, and judging by how sore I’ve been the last week, my muscles are geared toward curling, not softball (and especially not running).  This part was easy – I think I would score 100% on “taking it easy” in the first practice.

But the results weren’t great.  Mostly a lot of weak hits, a lot of opposite field, a lot of foul balls.  Fast forward to the first two games and I hit a heck of a lot of little ground ball dribblers.  I couldn’t tell you for sure but it felt like I was either just on top or just below the ball with the bat.  I definitely wasn’t making solid contact.

We had another practice this past Saturday.  I came in with a specific focus: I needed to fix my swing.  I spent a bit of time watching everyone else hit, until finally I took my turn up to bat.  I know you should always practice the way you want to play, but since I wanted to hit a lot of balls, I was going to swing at everything.  In a game, I probably want to avoid the “bad” pitches, but I’m also not going to get nearly as many pitches as I would in practice.

Making the decision to swing at everything was my first step to fixing my swing.  The second step was again to just ease into it – I wasn’t concerned about how far I was hitting the ball, I just wanted to make solid contact.  I made sure to take some practice swings, remaining cognizant of my wrist positioning and keeping the bat level, and not “swooping” it up.

When I first got to the plate, I had a sudden realization: I was waiting too long to start my swing.  For two seasons I’ve been going opposite field, and had many weak grounders (because I was on top of the ball, usually).  All because I was swinging late.  With that in mind – and the decision that I was swinging at everything – I just started my swing a little earlier than I had been, and not waiting on it to see where it would end up across the plate.

And I was hitting everything.  Solid contact across the board.  Some hits were a little shorter than others – probably due to the height of the ball across the plate more than anything.  But I had some real good, solid line drives.  I hit to the fence (including the top of the fence), to the warning track.  You name it.  No home runs but I wasn’t worried about that.  I was also pulling everything again, something I hadn’t done in a long time.

I was really excited after my at-bat.  At the time of writing I haven’t played yet – I will add an update before posting though.  I’m not sure how I’m going to approach the in-game situation – I don’t necessarily want to swing at everything.  But I know at least that I can’t decide too late for my swings.


Game update:

I think I hit 3/6 or something like that across two games.  I didn’t have everything going too well in the first game, but the second game was a marked improvement.  My last hit in the 2nd game was a grounder up the right side because I decided too late to start my swing.  However – I would rather be able to change which side I hit based on timing, rather than making it obvious and shifting my body.

All in all, a good week of softball!

The Weight Train

In my mind, I had some kind of vision of a cartoon-y train to use as a picture for this post, but alas, it was not meant to be.

For the past…I don’t know…30 days?  I’ve been holding steady with my weight.  I went up, but have come back down.  Currently I don’t know my status, because I don’t have a scale handy.  You see, I’m in the process of moving so things are all over the place.  One of those things is the scale.  Anyway, this is all related.  Oh, and a warning, this post is going to be more of a ramble than something I’ve actually thought and planned out.

Early on in the moving process we decided that we would pack away things like dishes, cooking utensils, give away some pots and pans, etc.  Essentially means that we are currently unable to actually cook anything at home.  As a result we are eating out a lot.  Being in a small town at the moment, our options are rather limited.  It’s a little stressful at times, too.  So since February something or other I haven’t even bothered logging anything other than my daily weight.

I’m trying to keep some rough estimates in my head for when I eat, so that I don’t over-indulge, but for the most part I’m not worrying about it.  Unfortunately this is probably going to have the side effect of setting me back even further than I’ve already done.  Still, I would rather take the trade-off of not worrying about my current food intake vs. reducing some stress around a big move.

I was doing some thinking and I want to set some different goals.   My weight used to be my primary goal, and was a measure of success.  I don’t think that’s cutting it, for me though.  There’s got to be a reason why I keep going back and forth with logging, not logging, juggling my calorie limits and “do I eat back calories or not?”, and so forth.  And I think that putting too much attention on my weight is one of the leading factors.

So my goal for the rest of the Spring and Summer is to set a new goal.  Haha.  I have to do some thinking, but I need to set a goal that is measurable and attainable.  I will still have a weight number in mind, but that’s secondary.  Some of the things I have kicking around in my head include going back down shirt / pant sizes, improving my softball game, and so on.  What I need is a solid plan instead of a loose ramble.

Work in progress.

Something I Will Probably Never Do Again

I was listening to a recent episode of the Raise the Bar podcast (iTunes) and one of the hosts was talking about their experience of doing stand-up comedy to open up for Don Burnstick.  Specifically he was relating how he felt it was “game time” once the spotlight shone in his eyes.  It got me thinking about one experience I had in high school – I think it would have been 15 years ago now.

I acted on stage in a one act play festival.  I honestly could not now remember what the name of the play was, but I do remember it was something about playing the father of the last fertile man on Earth (very Children of Men-ish).  Up until the point of when I decided to audition for a part, the only “acting” I had ever done would have been reading lines from a church Sunday School play, or performing speeches in elementary school.  I’d been on stage before playing music as part of a high school band – but never anything at this level.

I think I got involved because of the group of friends I surrounded myself with.  They were very much involved in the Drama department, and I think I was close to getting involved with one of the big productions in the school but backed out.  The One Act Play festival was much smaller and felt a little more approachable.

The audition process was probably the most difficult part for me.  I had to first find a monologue to deliver – something I’d never done – and then memorize it.  There were some minor lines or references in the monologue that apparently I could have had an audience member perform but I didn’t find that out until after.  I think it went alright though.  But it was hard also because I could see everyone in front of me and I knew every single one of them.  And I was being watched.  It was a bit nerve-wracking.

By contrast acting in the play was a lot easier.  Similar to the Raise the Bar host who experienced the “game on” feeling of having the spotlight shone on them, the bright lights on the stage blacked out the audience.  If I entered the stage before seeing the cafetorium (our school’s cafeteria doubled as an auditorium), I’d never know anyone was there.  But I also knew my lines, we all rehearsed everything and knew what to do.

I can definitely relate to those stage lights increasing that feeling of confidence.  I can’t remember the moments leading up to being on stage, but I’m pretty sure I was a little bit nervous.  I think I missed a line on one of the nights.  But I felt really good about the whole process.  It was a different feeling than playing in band – on those performances, everyone makes up one whole.  Acting in a play, everybody got a chance to get audience focus.

I don’t think I saw any reviews.  I have no idea how good or bad I might have been.  But it was an experience I probably will never have again.  I say “probably” because you never know – maybe one day I might find myself on a stage.  You can’t rule everything out.

But I’m glad to have had the experience, however short it was.

Restart

Flat restart iconEvery now and then I feel like I need to stop and take a break from constant food logging.  Usually it’s for a short period – a week, maybe a few days – and then I get back on track, and I either maintain my weight or gain 1 or two pounds.

Unfortunately I recently took an extended break from food logging.  My last full entry seems to be Friday February 9th – and even then, I’m not sure that it’s really complete.  It looks like the 8th was really the last complete day.  Since then I’ve maybe added one or two things, but for all intents & purposes, I’ve basically taken an entire month off.  And now I’m here to tell you that there are consequences:

On February 8th I weighed 262.3 pounds; as I write this (Monday March 5) my weight is 269.4 pounds.  An increase of 7.1 pounds.  I may not have done any tracking, but I know that not doing so allowed me to be irresponsible with my eating.  I worked from home a lot in that time period, and didn’t think twice about getting up and grabbing a snack.  I almost sank back into this behaviour this morning, in fact; I was about to grab some chips and poured them into a bowl without measuring the portion size.  I stopped and remembered that I should be logging everything and promptly measured out 50g.

What I realized in the process though is that when I’m not logging for an extended period of time, I’m a bit careless.  I don’t think too much about what I’m eating.  When I’m not logging for a day or two, I usually still measure things out and stick with proper portion sizes.  When left unchecked, I get lazy.

This past weekend I picked up a Samsung Gear S3 (Frontier edition, if you were that curious).  I already had the fitness aspects covered off with the FitBit Charge 2, but now I’ve added some productivity options as well.  I think the fitness features are just as robust an option as FitBit’s, just “different”.  Apparently connecting MyFitnessPal to my Gear S3 also gave me a year’s premium membership, for free.  So, I’m using this as a kicking-off point to restart my fitness journey.

I reset my goals in MyFitnessPal, to show losing 1 pound per week to start.  According to the new settings, I should lose 5 pounds by April 2nd.    As I go through this process I’m going to take notes on how the premium version of MFP works too, and probably will review that.  I have no idea if it’s something I need personally, but you never know.

Wish me luck!

Stealth update: Already down to 268.3.  I’m always amazed how quickly I can bounce back when I get back to proper logging.

Beware of the Green Check Mark in MyFitnessPal

I just found out about this recently – the green check mark next to food entries in MyFitnessPal does NOT mean that it’s a verified, “official” food.  I found this reddit post today very revelatory!

The green check mark on MFP does not mean it’s verified or guarantee the entries accuracy. from loseit

Click through on the link to read further details, but suffice it to say that the little green checkmarks don’t actually mean that it’s a “verified” entry.  It simply means that is has what MyFitnessPal calls “complete nutritional info”.

This was stunning for me, because all this time I thought that the green check mark indicated it was a “verified” food – that the information was correct and could be trusted.  Now, the post I linked above used some hyperbole (“100% wrong” is probably stretching the truth) but it does mean that there’s room for error.

Still, I think that entries with the check mark is as good as verified, because someone taking the time to enter complete data is probably entering mostly accurate data.  Just something to be aware of when wading through all of the food entries out there.